Memorandum submitted by Delitzsch UK (O46)
Delitzsch UK is a major supplier of seed to
the UK beet sugar industry. The annual value of the UK sugar beet
seed market is around £13 million.
The UK beet sugar industry is one of the most
efficient producers of beet sugar in Europe. The high standards
in production combined with minimum impact on the environment
meet the requirements of consumers. Allied to this, effective
pricing has ensured continuity of supply. As seed breeders we
have played an integral part in this success through the development
of improved varieties. The continued development of improved varieties
is fundamental for the future of the industry. We believe that
Option 1 of the EU proposals for the reform of the Sugar Regime
provides the only sustainable way forward for all parties.
1. UK Sugar beet productivity has doubled
since 1991-92, making it one of the most efficient beet sugar
industries in Europe. Over the same period, the improvements in
genetic potential have made a significant contribution to this
2. A high spend on research and development
by the breeder, around 20% of turnover, has enabled this potential
to be realised.
3. Increasing yield per unit area is unfortunately
a double-edged sword. Ever higher output requires less and less
hectares to grow the national quota and with it less seed in total
and therefore less income to fund R&D.
4. Yield per unit area has not been the
only breeding objective. Increasingly the breeder is being asked
to find genetic solutions to pest, disease and agronomic problems
that affect the crop. This is being accelerated by the recent
reductions in chemical active ingredients that are available for
use on the crop and the lack of new compounds from the chemical
companies as they suffer similar funding constraints.
5. A good example of how genetics are being
used to control disease is the development of rhizomania (Necrotic
Yellow Vein Virus) resistant varieties. Our variety "Rosanna"
was one of the first resistors to be introduced into UK. The effect
of the resistance is to allow commercially acceptable yields to
be achieved in the presence of the disease while at the same time
minimising the build up of virus in the soil.
Currently, we have two rhizomania resistant
varieties in national trials which also have yields as good as
the best susceptible varieties under non-infected conditions.
This is a major step forward in maintaining the viability of the
UK sugar beet crop as the number of recorded outbreaks of rhizomania
increases each year.
Without the resistant varieties, the disease
can reduce yields by over 50%. Genetic resistance remains the
only control for rhizomania.
6. In addition to rhizomania, we are being
asked develop varieties with a raft of other traits and resistances.
These include viral diseases, fungal diseases and pests either
as single or combinations of resistances.
7. In the longer-term, the possible effects
of greenhouse gases and the need for greater inputs into water
management and conservation have raised calls for the development
of drought resistant varieties.
8. From a breeder's point of view, the use
of gene transfer techniques would significantly speed up the introduction
of new traits. We also recognise that such technology can also
benefit biodiversity through the use of safer chemical crop care
products in what is already an environmentally friendly crop.
9. New traits are not confined to sugar
production. Sugar beet can provide a feedstock for other industries
such as bio-fuels. The use of bio-ethanol in fuel mixes will help
meet future carbon dioxide emission levels agreed by the government.
10. Clearly, we should maintain a beet sugar
industry in UK and Europe that provides stability in quality,
supply and environmental compliance. Option 1 of the proposals
is the only scenario to achieve this. At the same time this will
create similar benefits for the lesser-developed countries to
bring them up to our industry, environmental and social standards.
31 March 2004